AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
FROM A MEDICAL/PHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE
Most people landing on this page will know what Autisme Spectrum Disorder means. However, for those just starting on their journey to learn how they can help their child cope and heal and want some medical background information, I have included a brief summary. Also read how Craniosacral therapy can improve the physical discomfort that often comes with ASD as well as decreased anxiety and improved social interaction.
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental disorders), published by the American Psychiatric Association ("APA"), is the handbook used by health care professionals worldwide as the authoritative guide to diagnose mental disorders. The APA defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as [a group of] “complex developmental conditions that involve persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms are different in each person.”
There is no medical test for autism. It is diagnosed based on observing how the child talks and acts in comparison to other children of the same age. According to DSM-5, these are the criteria that are used to diagnose ASD:
Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, currently or by history.
Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities, currently or by history.
Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.
As useful as these guidelines are, autism differs from person to person in severity and combinations of symptoms. There is a great range of abilities and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder - no two children appear or behave the same way. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and often change over time. This is what makes the work of many therapists working with this group of patients so challenging.
Autism and Craniosacral therapy
Scientists do not clearly understand what causes ASD. However, Dr. Upledger, the co-founder of the Upledger Institute and developer of Craniosacral therapy, discovered through many years of clinical experience treating ASD, as well as several research projects, that autistic behavioural symptoms are related to the severity of restriction of the meningeal tissue of the Cranio Sacral System (the meninges are the three membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord). By releasing these restrictions and improving the flow of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord, Dr. Upledger was able to show a reduction (or even a total cessation) of self-abusive or self-destructive behaviours. He also saw a remarkable improvement in social behaviours as well as in expression of affection. To read the intire article, please follow the link. (“The Use of CranioSacral Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders; Benefits from the viewpoints of Parents, Clients and Therapists,” published in January 2017 in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies.
I would also like to refer you to an article in MassageToday by Tad Wanveer, volume 7, issue 7:
The techniques taught by Dr. Upledger can help improve the physical aspect of ADS, causing your child's condition, thereby improving his or her physical discomfort. Because of this improvement in membrane restriction and increasing cerebral spinal flow, a decrease in anxiety and more emotional stability are experience, resulting in changed social interaction and improved language- and motor skills.
CST also works with emotions and the stress these children may feel about being different from their peers. A dialogue during the session helps children learn to understand the value of how they see the world.